I’m trying to recall the last time I was consumed by the music. Probably Nine Inch Nails ripping up the Soundwave festival. And now tonight, with Jeff Martin and Wayne Sheehy unleashing an intensity of peformance that was simply staggering. Playing at the Troubadour, an intimate acoustic gig with the sound right up to keep the chatterers quiet, the pair came out firing, Jeff on guitar and vocals, Wayne on percussion. The Bazaar to open, followed by Requiem/Hurt. And I was gone for all money. It helped that the front ranks stayed seated on the floor, offering superb line of sight. That the sound was, mostly, crisp and at just the right volume to drown out the background rabble without being painful, helped. But it was the attack, the emotion, the obvious rapport between the two, and of course the music, drawing from Tea Party and Jeff’s solo album and the Armada — the pair’s band, in this instance with Jay Cortes on bass. His addition for the last three songs — The Kingdom, Black Snake Blues/Whole Lotta Love and encore Save Me (with Jeff’s voice close to straining out) — added yet another dimension. Good news: Jeff reported a sellout of the Armada album in Aussie stores, and also that the Armada are set to return to Australia in November, with Roy Harper as guest.
One man and a guitar. It’s too much power, really. At least, it is when the man is Jeff Martin.
His leonine presence filled the boudoir-style stage of the intimate, first-floor Troubadour tonight. Just him, a couple of acoustic guitars, effects pedals, stomp box. And that voice…
He was feeling the music tonight, I thought. He was in the zone, touched by an encounter with unexpected love on a previous visit, still haunted perhaps by his gigs down in Victoria where the pain and loss of the bushfires have clearly affected him. He dedicated The Kingdom to the fire victims, and paid respect to the Queensland flood victims, too, with the eco-friendly Line in the Sand.
The medleys came plentifully, my favourite the mix of Requiem and Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt — poignant, given we heard Trent Reznor close his emotive headlining gig at Soundwave with that song only on Saturday, a probable farewell, as it turns out. Schade.
With Martin, there’s blues and world music and a touch of pop and good old rock. It’s head-nodding, hand-clapping, joyful, cathartic stuff, drawing on Tea Party material (opener The Bazaar, Save Me, Sister Awake et al) as well as his solo and now Armada work, with crafty dollops of covers thrown in. And some of it resonates, all the way to the heart.
The inclusion of a line from Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart was particularly affecting. There were others, but that’s between the doctor and me.
Martin returns with his Armada compatriots in May. We saw them at the end of last year and were impressed. But tonight, now that was special, just we happy few and the man and his guitar, and the chords he played.